Analysing cities’ food supply system resilience through networks: new methodological and conceptual directions

Yuna Chiffoleau, Alain Degenne, Grégori Akermann, Milo Monnier, Anne-Cécile Brit, Maxime Lenormand, Florent Saucède


In a context of growing uncertainties (climate change, social movements, scarcity of oil…), concerns are raising regarding the resilience of urban food supply systems. Recent stock shortages in supermarkets have been worrying local authorities, calling for an in-depth analysis of the supply chains procuring food security. Food supply chains are indeed subject to rapid changes under the influence of consumers’ demand, food relocation policies, and large retailers’ strategies. This communication aims at proposing and testing a methodology to approach the food supply system of a city and assess its resilience. The food supply system of a city is here rethought as network made of economic and social relations between retailers, producers and intermediaries. The resilience of the food supply system is supposed to be linked partly to the morphology and the dynamics of the social network beyond individual resilient strategies. A field survey in Montpellier, South of France, of 105 retailers consisted in tracing and quantifying the flows of tomatoes from the retailer to the producer, by detailing the economic and social relations underlying the flows – including a proxy of their strength - as well as the volumes that are concerned. The analysis shows how the supply food system is structured around, and dependant on few intermediaries connecting three different markets, in line with Harrison White’s approach. A novel technique consisting in ‘peeling’ the network by removing sequentially the nodes according to their betweenness centrality is used to identify the economic intermediaries who are less visible but necessary to make the network work and resist face to different possible shocks. The analysis gives concrete tools as well as new conceptual and methodological directions to both policy-makers and researchers to improve the resilience of urban food supply systems.

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